The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) are working together to remind Vermilion, Ohio drivers about the lifesaving importance of railroad safety.
The "Stop. Trains Can’t" safety campaign is urging Vermilion drivers to use caution around railroad crossings.
In 2018 alone, 270 people were killed at railroad crossings, according to data from FRA. Of those, 99 people died after the driver went around lowered crossing gate arms — a 10-year high.
In fact, from 2014–2018, 1,538 drivers went around a lowered gate and were struck by a train, accounting for 14 percent of all collisions. These crashes were caused by risky driving behaviors and poor decision making, which means the incidents and deaths could have been prevented.
If you try to race with a train, you will lose every time. Tragically, people are making impatient and risky choices, and they are paying with their lives. Most of these deaths are preventable. Whether or not you see railroad crossing signage, you should always use caution and obey the crossing laws.
By law, trains always have the right of way because of their sheer size: A train cannot swerve, stop quickly, or change directions to avert a collision. Avoiding a collision with a train is always the responsibility of the driver.
There are 130,000 public railroad crossings in the United States, and roughly 54 percent are “active” crossings that include warning devices such as gates, bells, or flashing lights to alert drivers of an approaching train. But 46 percent are “passive” crossings, meaning only signs and markings are present.
While warning devices do improve safety at railroad crossings, they do not prevent 100-percent of collisions. Approximately 60 percent of all collisions at railroad crossings occur where active warning devices are present.
Waiting for a train seems like an inconvenience, but showing caution at these railroad crossings and stopping when necessary just may save your life. No delay is worth losing your life, so if a train is coming, the driver only has one safe option — to stop.
Follow these tips to stay safe when crossing a railroad:
When approaching a railroad crossing, slow down, look, and listen for a train on the tracks, especially at “passive” crossings.
Look carefully in both directions before crossing a railroad track—even during the day. Sixty-seven percent of railroad crossing collisions occur in clear weather conditions.
Do not rely on past experiences to guess when a train is coming. Trains can come from either direction at any time.
Never race a train. It is easy to misjudge a train’s speed and distance from the crossing. A train traveling at 55 miles per hour takes a mile to stop — the length of 18 football fields or more — after applying the emergency brakes.
Before entering a railroad crossing, check that there is enough room on the other side of the tracks for your vehicle to cross completely and safely. Be aware that you may need to cross multiple sets of tracks at some railroad crossings.
Never stop on the railroad tracks. Keep moving once you have entered the crossing, and to avoid stalling, never shift gears on the tracks.
If your vehicle stalls on a railroad track, quickly move away from the track and your vehicle at a 45-degree angle. Call the number on the Emergency Notification System sign, or, if the sign is not visible to you, dial 911 for help.
Remember: The right choice at railroad crossings could save your life. Stop. Trains Can’t.